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Home » Auto Ownership, Eco-Friendly Savings

The 15 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars of 2013

Last updated by on 18 Comments

Update: I have since published a list of the most fuel efficient cars of 2014.

A Year of Fuel Economy Developments

Last year marked a big year for fuel efficient cars in a number of ways.

In January, consumers noted that fuel efficiency had become the #1 purchase consideration in a JD Power survey.

Gas, once again, hit $4 per gallon in the spring, which fueled consumer discontent.

Then, in August, President Obama joined forces with the auto industry to set a landmark fuel efficiency standard for fleets of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

If we are going to hit that number, we have a long ways to go, as the fleet average last year was at 23 miles per gallon.

Luckily, there has been a record number of new fuel-efficient cars, including many new electrics and hybrids, entering the market, and the pace of innovation will only increase as automakers will battle each other to be the first to claim success in achieving the new fuel economy standards in order to win over new customers.

Do any of these cars make sense financially for a frugal-minded person to purchase? Nah, probably not. But it’s still fun to review the progress and for me to write about. And who knows, maybe in 3-5 years, it would make sense to purchase a used version of one of these. But right now, purchasing a new vehicle for its fuel efficiency rarely pays off in a monetary sense.

New Fuel-Efficient Cars Flood the Market

most fuel efficient carsThe 2013 list is dramatically different than last year’s list of most fuel efficient cars. Tesla and Ford add new electric vehicles and a record number of hybrids, including the new Ford C-Max and three new Prius models, join many existing hybrid models.

In fact, gasoline-only combustion engine vehicles have been completely knocked off the list, with the 2-seater Scion IQ (37 mpg combined) and Smart ForTwo (36 mpg combined), coming up just short versus hybrid competitors.

This type of fuel-efficiency war can only benefit consumers (and the environment) in the long run, so I’m very excited to see how the technology advances over the next few years and how it drives prices for these high efficiency vehicles down.

Unfortunately, none of these new fuel sippers simultaneously make this list and my list of the cheapest new cars. In that respect, perhaps the most exciting new addition is the Toyota Prius C, a small hybrid hatchback with an MSRP of less than $20k, and fuel efficiency of 50 mpg combined. This vehicle could save money in the long run versus even the cheapest non-hybrid models.

How this List was Compiled

Note that annual fuel costs listed are based on 45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and a fuel price of $ 3.25 per gallon and electricity price of $0.12 per kWh. If you have a different driving makeup, you can plug in your mileage at fueleconomy.gov for each vehicle to find your specific fuel costs.

CO2 emissions were obtained from the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov site, as were combined, city, and highway mpg averages.

Also, note that there is still federal electric car tax credit of up to $7,500 (depends on your tax situation) available to Energy Star approved electric vehicles. I have subtracted the $7,500 from the MSRP for eligible vehicles in the list below. Some states match all or a portion of that credit. It can take a pricey electric down to a competitive price level, and when you look at the fuel cost savings, it could result in a very frugal purchase (particularly for the Mitsubishi i and Nissan Leaf). Five electrics made this list. The tax credit phases out for an automaker when they have produced their 200,000th electric vehicle.

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars List

Here is the list of the 15 most fuel efficient cars of 2013!

15. Toyota Camry Hybrid LE

  • 2013 Toyota Camry HybridPrice: $26,785
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 41
  • City MPG: 43
  • Highway MPG: 39
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,200
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.6 tons
  • Comments: Hard to justify the price given the entire new Prius lineup and more efficient competitors.

14. Toyota Prius V Hybrid

  • 2013 Toyota Prius VPrice: $27,445
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 42
  • City MPG: 44
  • Highway MPG: 40
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,150
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.5 tons
  • Comments: The largest of the new Prius lineup doesn’t quite measure up to the original for the premium on price and decrease in fuel efficiency (but I’ve already seen quite a few on the road).

13. Lexus CT 200H Hybrid

  • 2013 Lexus CT200H HybridPrice: $32,718
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 42
  • City MPG: 43
  • Highway MPG: 40
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,150
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.5 tons
  • Comments: MSRP jumped almost $3,000 over last year’s model.

12. Honda Insight Hybrid

  • 2013 Honda InsightPrice: $19,390
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 42
  • City MPG: 41
  • Highway MPG: 44
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,150
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.5 tons
  • Comments: 2013 version not yet released, but will now be directly competing with the more fuel efficient Toyota Prius C.

11. Honda Civic Hybrid

  • 2013 Honda Civic HybridPrice: $24,990
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 44
  • City MPG: 44
  • Highway MPG: 44
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,100
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.3 tons
  • Comments: 2013 version not yet released, but given models like the Insight and Prius C, the Civic Hybrid will either need to dramatically improve fuel efficiency or lower its price to stay competitive.

10. Ford C-Max Hybrid

  • 2013 Ford C-Max HybridPrice: $25,995
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 47
  • City MPG: 47
  • Highway MPG: 47
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,050
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.1 tons
  • Comments: Exciting new addition to Ford’s increasingly fuel efficient lineup. There is also a plug-in version, with fuel efficiency tbd.

9. Ford Fusion Hybrid

  • 2013 ford fusion hybridPrice: $27,995
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 47
  • City MPG: 47
  • Highway MPG: 47
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,050
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.1 tons
  • Comments: Huge jump over last year’s model averages of 39 combined, 41 city, and 36 highway mgp’s. Stay away from the Titanium, which is $5k more.

8. Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

  • 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-InPrice: $32,795
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid (plug-in to extend electric range)
  • Combined MPG: 50
  • City MPG: 51
  • Highway MPG: 49
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $850
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 2.2 tons
  • Comments: The Prius V offers a range of 11 miles when in EV mode, giving it slightly more fuel savings. This is great if you only take your car out for small trips, however if you’re driving many highway miles, it’s hard to justify the $8k premium over the standard Prius hybrid models.

7. Toyota Prius C Hybrid

  • 2013 Toyota Prius CPrice: $19,745
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 50
  • City MPG: 53
  • Highway MPG: 46
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,000
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.0 tons
  • Comments: This new addition is a sub $20k hybrid with an amazing 50 mpg combined. This could clearly be one example of a hybrid that pays off. Could this be the most popular hybrid outside of the original Prius? My guess is “yes”.

6. Toyota Prius Hybrid

  • 2013 Toyota Prius HybridPrice: $24,010
  • Engine: Gas-Electric Hybrid
  • Combined MPG: 50
  • City MPG: 51
  • Highway MPG: 48
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $1,000
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 3.0 tons
  • Comments: The first hybrid is still a leader in hybrid fuel efficiency. Interestingly it matches even its new plugin cousin’s fuel efficiency.

5. Tesla Model S

  • 2013 Tesla Model SPrice: $42,400
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 95
  • City MPG: 94
  • Highway MPG: 97
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $650
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 0
  • Comments: On reserve, the Tesla Model S comes in three different battery pack options, all with different ranges – 40, 60, and 85 kWh (each jump results in a $10,000 price increase).

4. Chevy Volt

  • 2013 Chevy VoltPrice: $32,495
  • Engine: Electric (with Gas to extend range)
  • Combined MPG: 98
  • City MPG: 95
  • Highway MPG: 93
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $648 (electric only)
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 0
  • Comments: $39,995 without federal tax credit. Note that gas only would make it 40 highway, 35 city, and 37 combined, with an annual fuel cost of $1,447. The 2013 EPA estimates have not yet been released, but should be similar to 2012.

3. Nissan Leaf

  • 2013 Nissan LeafPrice: $28,550
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 99
  • City MPG: 106
  • Highway MPG: 92
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $610
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 0
  • Comments: $36,050 before $7,500 federal tax credit.The 2013 model is expected to decline between $5,000 and $6,000, so current rebates on the 2012 are at $5,500.

2. Ford Focus Electric

  • 2013 Ford Focus ElectricPrice: $32,495
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 105
  • City MPG: 110
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 0
  • Comments: The popular Focus makes its first appearance as an EV and comes in comfortably in second place.

1. Mitsubishi i

  • 2013 Mitsubishi iPrice: $21,625
  • Engine: Electric
  • Combined MPG: 112
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • Annual CO2 Produced: 0
  • Comments: $29,975 MSRP before $7,500 federal tax credit. Last year’s new electric is still the king in equivalent fuel efficiency.

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


18 Comments »
  • Jon D says:

    Doesn’t surprise me that Toyota are high up on many of those cars. I think that they spotted the trend coming many years ago and they seem to have been working hard on developing highly fuel efficient cars for a while now :) I think that increasingly fuel efficient will be key to lowering fuel costs and helping balance the family budget.

  • Ross says:

    GE, thanks for the great summary of the latest and greatest fuel efficient cars. Clearly you’ve done your homework. However, I’ve got an issue with saying that the Leaf has a carbon footprint of 0. In order to charge the battery, coal (or other sources) emit greenhouse gases. In fact, its actually dirtier to drive a leaf in Colorado than many other vehicles simply because they get their electricity from coal and oil. I do this stuff for a living so id be happy to give you some guidelines for future if you’re interested. Either way, great post.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Every year I do this list, someone brings this up, so I’m happy to address it. Here’s the thing – if you are self-sufficient through solar, the carbon output, is in fact, zero. You can’t blame the car for how dirty/clean the energy companies in your locale are and how clean/dirty you are. And I can’t put down the average for each state.

      • Ross says:

        Good point. If you get your power from solar power, it is 0. But <.03% of our nation's electricity comes from solar. You could count all the gas engines as 0 if you purchased biogas (absurd, I know). Wouldn't it be easier to just use the EPA US average emission factor which is 1.216 Lbs-CO2/kwh? Sorry to be a bother, I just had to ask once I saw that 0.

  • I recently visited the auto show and though the Ford Fusion was fantastic.

  • Brian @ Broke, Young, But In Love says:

    Great list, G.E.! It’s awesome to see car companies really taking a step forward with this technology and hopefully one day in the near future fuel cell engines will be as common as gas engines. It’s a shame the government has placed so many restrictions on diesel engines over the past few decades since many of them can get MPG numbers like these hybrids and produce about as many, if not less, pollutants than their gas counterparts (see the BlueTec engines http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlueTec).

    Anyways, hopefully the price of purchasing a hybrid will really encourage people to take them seriously.

  • Peter says:

    Why aren’t vw TDI vehicles included in this list. The regularly get 40 mpg, are available new or used (which costs less), Haber proven track records, known service intervals, and no large battery to replace.

    Electric, I agree is the way of the future. But we have had fuel efficient cars for some time.

  • HP says:

    Thanks for writing. I just wanted to point out that the Ford Fusion price that you provided is for the “Hybrid Titanium” model. The basic Fusion hybrid is $27,200.00 MSRP and has the same MPG specs.

  • Interesting. Like Jon D, Toyota seems to have the right idea when it comes to fuel efficiency and hybrid vehicles. Now, whether or not hybrids are worth it is another story.

  • CJ says:

    Can’t help but notice that all of these are hybrids or electric. My 2012 Skyactiv Mazda 3 gets me on average 38 MPG (I use the highway to get to work with little to no traffic and drive efficiently as possible). I’m still leery of getting a hybrid due to the upfront cost of the cars and potentially higher maintenance costs down the road, and I think there are a lot of non-hybrid options out there which are only a couple of MPG under these

  • Tadpad says:

    Have a Prius C. With the feedback it provides and with careful driving, can approach 60 mpg regularly. Blows me away.

  • Gary says:

    WILL NEVER buy another Hybrid. Have a Hybrid Civic 2005 model. Mileage averages between 40.2 in the summer and 38.9 in the winter. However I live in a state with yearly inspections and the IMA (integrated motor assist)electric system is considered part of the emissions system. So when the IMA system is acting up which is quite often then the vehicle will not pass its yearly inspection. Then when the IMA battery pack needs replacing its $3000 from Honda and comes with only a 12 month 12,000 mile warrenty. Bought one in February 2012 now need another one in February 2013. Car is driven 100 miles daily and thay 12,000 mile warrenty on that battery is long gone. at $3000 per year to replace a battery that comes out to either $250 a month towards a good new car each month or 857 gallons of gas at $3.50 a gallon. so that would give me almot 30,000 miles worth of driving over those 857 gallons of gas witha a car that only gets an average of 35 miles per gallon.

    Save your money buy a regular gas vehicle with good gas mileage and laugh at all of us idiots who bought the Hybrid (god fordid waht the cost of an all electric battery pack would cost) and drive happy in the knowledge that you will in the end ave more money than me.

    • jay says:

      GARY, – hyundai offers a lifetime warranty on their battery pack YES LIFETIME – CHEVY offers 8 years on their battery.. thats longer than what americans keep their cars anyways. please do not bash evs and hybrids. toyota has taxis with over 300 thousand miles on them with the same battery pack as the first mile… maybe honda got the best of you but do not give the wrong impression to people… we should all do more research and never trust the internet haha but sorry if what you say is true but someone def. took advantage of you

      the prius c does not average 50 mpg it averages about 66.7 in the summer and spring and 44.9 in the extreme cold winter. i have one. ev’s and hybrids are great

      buy a prius c and u will change oil only every 10k miles vs a ICE which is every 3-5k miles triple your mpg with a prius c as well. likely wont buy brake pads for over 5 years vs the 100 dollar bill on your brakes for a ICE car.. the list goes on and on. and if this mysterious battery pack problem exists then drive the car til u dont want it and get rid of it.. u dont need the pack to run.

      what do i know? im just a guy who never changed oil yet or brakes and only used a gallon of gas to drive 66 miles -

  • Brandon says:

    Gary, what you described was a problem with Honda Civic Hybrids. I hear the same of every Honda Civic Hybrid owner in reliability reports. For this reason, I believe that Civic Hybrids should be taken off this list because they are not reliable cars AT ALL. We don’t need more people to get scammed with Civic Hybrids. I do not believe other hybrids/EVs from other manufacturers share the same problem.

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